November 2000 Local SIGs column
During August of 2000, the SIGCHI Executive Committee (EC) met with the BayCHI Steering Committee -- BayCHI "Steers" is what they call themselves -- to find out what makes BayCHI so successful.
BayCHI is the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of ACM SIGCHI, has been in existance for 11 years, and, according to Membership Chair Don Patterson, has an active database record total of approximately 2200, of which approximately 1100 are paid memberships.
What makes BayCHI successful? Executive Chair Fred Jacobson claims that Program Chair Richard Anderson says the answer is, "Location, location, location," and without a doubt, location plays a huge role in BayCHI's success. But BayCHI's location alone is no guarantee of success; the Bay Area has seen a number of related organizations struggle and sometimes fail.
What else makes BayCHI so successful? Here are some of the answers.
Longevity of Leadership
Leaders come and go in some CHI Local SIGs. At BayCHI, leaders are hard to get rid of.
Don Patterson co-founded the chapter and has played key leadership roles ever since. Fred Jacobson played several roles in BayCHI over a number of years before becoming the current Executive Chair. Of the six other people who have held the position of Executive Chair, four -- including Clark Streeter, Bob Weissman, and David Rowley -- remain in leadership positions. The first elected Executive Chair, Richard Anderson, will soon celebrate his 10th anniversary as Program Chair and monthly meeting emcee.
Ulrike Creach, BayCHI's first Treasurer, continues to host BayCHI Steering Committee meetings and provide important guidance. Jock MacKinlay has served as the official host of our monthly meetings at Xerox PARC ever since and including BayCHI's first meeting, held there in September of 1989. And several others have contributed to BayCHI's leadership across several years.
This longevity of leadership has sometimes kept BayCHI conservative -- perhaps excessively so. However, BayCHI's longtime leaders, combined with its many longtime members, comprise its organizational memory, which has kept BayCHI from making many mistakes. The addition of the fresh energy and ideas of lots of other volunteers (the steering committee is very large) to that strong base of understanding of what really matters and of what has and hasn't worked has produced some impressive results.
The monthly program meeting is the heart of BayCHI, featuring a diverse mix of presentations, interviews, demonstrations, discussions, performances, etc. and drawing an average attendance of 200+. The best known, the somewhat known, and the unknown have appeared on the BayCHI stage, in an athmosphere that combines learning, inspiration, and fun.
Two hours prior to each monthly meeting, attendees have an opportunity to assemble at a restaurant selected by BayCHI's Dinner Coordinators for food, conversation, and, often, an opportunity to meet one or more of the evening's presenters. One half hour prior to each meeting, coffee and tea is served in the Xerox PARC auditorium lobby to facilitate networking among meeting attendees and to give attendees an easy opportunity to become BayCHI members, register for BayCHI tutorials, or purchase BayCHI paraphernalia.
For more about the BayCHI program, see the October 1994 Local SIGs column; for a full list of past programs, see www.well.com/user/riander/programs.html. To check it out in person, head for the Xerox PARC auditorium any second Tuesday evening of the month; attendance is free and open to the public.
BOFs & Tutorials
Additional opportunities for learning, inspiration, and fun come in the form of BayCHI Birds-Of-a-Feather groups (BOFs). At this time, there are six:
- Usability Engineering, meeting every other month and led by Mary Van Riper
- Kids, meeting quarterly and led by Cindy Johnson, Dana Mitroff, & Helen Shwe
- Web, meeting every 2 or 3 months and led by Vadim Akselrod
- North Bay, meeting every other month and led by David Rowley & Rusty Jorgensen
- Mobile, just starting and led by Roman Longoria
- Students, just starting and led by Carolyn Gale
Attendance at these meetings is also free and open to the public, and the meetings are very popular.
BayCHI also sponsors full- and half-day tutorials for a fee, now averaging three offerings a year.
Job Bank, Consultants Directory, Membership Directory, Newsletter, Library, ...
A greatly valued benefit of membership is access to the hundreds of HCI job listings BayCHI receives from organizations. (SIGCHI and many other Local SIGs do not make this a membership benefit, opting instead to provide such access to members and non-members alike; SIGCHI is now considering a change to BayCHI's model.) Members can also be listed in the BayCHI consultants directory that is accessible to anyone via BayCHI's website.
Other benefits of BayCHI membership include access to items in BayCHI's library of CHI tutorial notes, conference proceedings, videos, and a mix of other HCI publications, and receipt of a BayCHI membership directory and the monthly BayCHI newsletter (non-members on the BayCHI mailing list receive an abbreviated version of the newsletter).
So much more has contributed to BayCHI's success: anchovies; the Yari Leski award; unreadable and unbelievable minutes of steering committee meetings; a rivalry of sorts with ToRCHI; paper cuts; a record attendance of 600; support BayCHI has given to other CHI Local SIGs; a bald mannequin; conflict; www.baychi.org; Kathy Hemenway; SIGCHI's early and lengthy indifference; many hard-working volunteers in addition to those named above (see BayCHI's website for a list of current volunteers and their roles); a head of horns; membership surveys; BayCHI birthday cakes; overflowing crowds; annual steer feeds; controversy; Stanford's Kresge auditorium; a calendar of events; members residing in many countries around the world; integrity; the Xerox PARC AV staff; committment; ...
Stories about many of these things were shared with the SIGCHI EC during its meeting of several hours with the BayCHI Steers in August. The SIGCHI EC left the meeting greatly impressed.
Richard I. Anderson, Local SIGs Chair